Name: Justin Evans
School: Texas A&M
Position fit: Safety
Stats to know: In his final nine games, he gave up just 19 catches on 32 targets for 107 yards and had two interceptions and six pass break-ups.
What he does best:
- Explosive break and close ability.
- Aggressiveness in physicality in coverage also translates to his play against blocks.
- Has the ball skills not only to time his breakup without going through the receiver and taking a penalty, but can also high-point and catch the ball away from his frame.
- Has outstanding range – can make plays to the boundary on the back end, as well as get to the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage when working from a traditional safety alignment.
- Gave up an average of just 8.3 yards per reception and two touchdowns in 2016 while intercepting four passes and breaking up eight.
- 2 coverage grade ranked third-best among FBS safeties in 2016.
- Did not give up a reception longer than 14 yards after September this season.
- 38 missed tackles in two seasons; ranked 219th in tackling efficiency among FBS safeties in 2016.
- Ranked 210th in run-stop percentage among all FBS safeties.
- Lacks the strength to consistently bring down bigger ball carriers.
- Too aggressive – he overcommits to everything, leaving him susceptible to double moves in coverage, as well as cutbacks by runners.
- Looks sloppy, off balance in transition at times because he does not use a proper back pedal and tends to get his feet crossed up.
- Does not recover well once a ball carrier makes a move on him, in large part because he is far too often not square to his target or taking too aggressive an angle; also can get his weight too far on his heels when changing directions.
Player comparison: Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks
High praise, but this comp is more about athleticism and playing style than expected next-level production. Like Evans, Thomas is an explosive athlete who has been outstanding in coverage throughout his career but has missed 95 tackles in seven seasons with the Seahawks, including 12 this past season despite playing just 693 snaps due to injury.
Bottom line: Everything is full speed all the time for Evans, which is both a positive and negative trait. While he demonstrates outstanding range, both from a traditional cover-1 alignment on passing plays and against runs in front, he is too often out of control and unable to adjust once in attack mode. When he is in position in coverage, he does an outstanding job of turning and locating the ball in the air, and is able to consistently reach around for break-ups without going through or wrapping his back hand around his man and taking interference penalties. Tackling issues aside, Evans was one of the most productive coverage safeties in the country, and clearly has the athletic makeup for the NFL. If he is able to improve his tackling technique and fix his footwork in coverage, he is likely to develop into a highly productive starter at the next level.